An unreliable memoir

500 and counting

Large Yellow Underwing
Large Yellow Underwing, Noctua pronuba. Nikon D5200 Tokina 100mm f22 1/250 ISO 100

A man should have a hobby. That was supposed to be the title of yesterday’s post – until the Hobby turned into a Kestrel, so I though I’d recycle it today in the spirit of environmental sensitivity.

Since 1852 in the UK there has been a network of wildlife recording schemes. Traditionally these were county based but increasingly they are now moving online. Six months ago I started using the NatureSpot website to record my observations of wildlife in VC55 – Leicestershire and Rutland. I’ve just had my 500th species verified*, this Large Yellow Underwing moth in my garden, not rare but still important – probably a significant part of the diet of the bats I see from my window.

Wildlife recording has given my photography more purpose, and I’m basking in the warm glow of citizen science derived from something I love doing. I’ve learned so much in just a few months and it has deepened my enjoyment of the countryside, and even suburban environments. But it’s not all sunshine and light – there is a tension between high quality/arty photography and recording as much as possible. I frequently snap away with I.D. shots so that I can identify things later, and then am disappointed at the quality of the photos when I get home. I need to find the correct balance on this, which is probably going to mean separating photography trips from recording trips (which will still involve photography). And I need to make the whole process sustainable so I can carry on without burning out – or more likely spluttering out in the dark depths of February.

Wildlife recording is a game that anyone can play wherever you may be in the UK, though the iRecord website, or even internationally through iSpot. But be warned – it’s addictive.

Here’s to the next 500.


*Which raises the question, how many species are there in VC55? There are several answers to that, most of which are not very good. The biologist’s answer is “It all depends what you mean by a species”. Certainly with things like bacteria it’s not clear what species means, so lets restrict ourselves to macroscopic organisms. The next answer is “No-one knows”, which is also true, especially since species are becoming locally extinct and new species arriving at an ever increasing rate. The best answer is a broad guesstimate: probably somewhere between 5-10,000, most likely nearer the upper end of that range. Which means that my paltry 500 species represents around 5% of what’s out there. Work still to do!

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